Tuesday Morning - February 8, 2022

1 big thing: Final Rule issued on school meal nutrition standards 

Schools in Lunch Line

What’s new: On February 4, the USDA announced a Final Rule establishing new, temporary milk, whole grain, and sodium standards for school meals for SY2022-23 through SY2023-24.

Why it matters:  Child Nutrition Programs: Transitional Standards for Milk, Whole Grains, and Sodium establishes the following:

  • Whole Grains: At least 80% of the grains served in school lunch and breakfast each week must be whole grain rich.

  • Sodium: The weekly sodium limit for school lunch and breakfast will remain at Target 1 in SY2022-23. For school lunch only, there will be a 10% decrease in the limit in SY2023-24.

  • Milk: Schools and childcare providers serving participants ages six and older may offer flavored low-fat (1%) milk in addition to nonfat flavored milk and nonfat or low-fat unflavored milk.

What we’re saying: SNA’s  press release on the rule praised USDA for acknowledging challenges faced by school meal programs and urged Congress to extend pandemic child nutrition waivers through SY2022-23. 

  • SNA is reviewing the Rule and its full implications for school meal programs.

Go deeper: For more information on this Final Rule, read USDA's press release which includes links to additional resources.

What’s next: USDA also announced it intends to issue a Proposed Rule this fall that moves towards updating nutrition standards for the long term.

2. SNA’s USDA Foods Task Force meets with GAO

Salad Bar with lettuce, carrots and tomatoes and strawberries

What’s new: As part of ongoing regulatory advocacy efforts, SNA’s USDA Foods Task Force met with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to respond to inquiries related to the USDA Foods in Schools program.

Why it matters:  During the call, SNA members representing schools and state agencies from across the U.S. shared the impact, successes and challenges of the USDA Foods program and methods for maximizing its benefits to school meals.

The big picture: The USDA Foods in Schools program supports domestic nutrition programs and American agricultural producers through purchases of 100% American-grown and-produced foods for use by schools.

What’s next: SNA will update members as new information becomes available.

3. SNA endorses The Healthy Meal Time Act

Schools in lunch line for the salad bar

What’s new: SNA endorses the Healthy Meal Time Act (H.R. 6526) introduced by U.S. Representatives Kim Schrier, M.D. (D-WA) and Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) on February 1.

Why it matters: H.R. 6526 provides schools with best practices for scheduling lunch and recess to ensure that students have enough time to eat a balanced, nutritious meal, and reduce food waste.

What’s next: With input from the U.S. Department of Education, the USDA is directed to create a study that will share successful efforts and current best practices with schools.

What they’re saying: A study in the Journal of Child Nutrition & Management found that having recess before lunch results in students consuming more food, eating healthier food and wasting less.

Our thought bubble: "Research shows children receive their healthiest meals at school. Now we need to ensure students have enough time to eat school meals, especially those nutrient-dense fresh fruits and vegetables, which take longer for kids to consume," says SNA President Beth Wallace, MBA, SNS.

Read more.

4. Waiver extension bill introduced

Students in Cafeteria

What’s new: SNA endorses the Keeping School Meals Flexible Act introduced by U.S. Representatives Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) and Jon Katko (R-NY).

Why it matters:   H.R.6613 extends USDA’s COVID-19 waiver authority through SY2022-23, allowing the Department to grant schools critical pandemic-related flexibilities as they grapple with discontinued menu items, shortages, and higher prices.

The bottom line: With no sign of disruptions easing, uncertainty regarding waiver status and reimbursement rates is hampering the integral bid process. Meal programs and their suppliers urgently need the assurance of waiver extensions through SY2022-23 and the security of continued regulatory flexibility to support meal service for students.

Read more .

5. Prepare for SNA’s 2022 Legislative Action Conference

SNA Legislative Action Conference 2022

Whether you meet with your legislators in person or via Zoom, now is the time to start planning your meeting agenda.

💻Upcoming webinar:  School Meal Advocacy in 2022. On March 2 at 2 p.m. EST, join experienced school nutrition advocates to receive background and details on SNA’s 2022 Position Paper and to learn how you can be an effective advocate for school meal programs. 

🛠️ The LAC 2022  resources webpage provides critical advocacy resources such as your District Profile sheet to use during your Hill visits, lobbying tips, and more.

📸Don’t forget to bring photos of your healthy, colorful school lunch trays! Don’t let your legislator think this headline-grabbing photo of an unappealing lunch tray speaks to what’s being served in your school cafeterias.

  • A picture speaks a thousand words, so share a few of the nutritious meals you serve.

💡 Need some inspiration? View this slide show that Maryland SNA prepared for their legislator visits.

6. Apply now: FY 2022 Team Nutrition Training Grants

MealPro-Team-Meeting

What’s new: USDA has released a  Request for Applications for the Fiscal Year 2022 Team Nutrition Training Grants for School Nutrition Professional Readiness and Retention. 

State agencies that administer the National School Lunch Program may apply for up to $1 million in competitive grant funding.

Don't miss these important dates:

  • February 8, 2022: Informational Webinar 

  • February 24, 2022: Letter of Intent Due by 11:59 pm EST

  • March 14, 2022: Applications Due by 11:59 pm EST

Learn more.

7. State legislative updates: New Jersey and Kentucky

Map of US

What’s new: State legislation in New Jersey and Kentucky has been introduced to expand student access to school breakfast and lunch.

In New Jersey, State Senator James Beach introduced a bill to require school breakfast programs in all schools with five percent or more of students eligible for free or reduced-price meals.

Also, in New Jersey State Senator Teresa Ruiz introduced a measure to direct the Department of Agriculture to implement online applications for the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program. A companion bill has been introduced as well.

In Kentucky, bill to provide children the opportunity to eat breakfast in the classroom during instructional time has been introduced by Representative Steve Riley.

  • This measure allows decision making councils or principals in schools that participate in the School Breakfast Program to authorize up to 15 minutes of the student attendance day for this provision.

  • This measure amends the current statute to expand decision making authority of this matter.

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